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Taking matters in their hands


On July 2, representatives from about 40 agriculture groups met at the White House with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials to discuss animal-related security issues.

On July 2, representatives from about 40 agriculture groups met at theWhite House with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and U.S. Departmentof Agriculture (USDA) officials to discuss animal-related security issues.

The meeting was organized by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association(NCBA), which is leading a coalition of animal and plant agriculture groupsto facilitate information-sharing.

Governor Ridge told the groups that the President fully recognizes theimportance of the agriculture economy, the food supply and the role thatAPHIS has in protecting them.

On another note, the National Association of the State Departments ofAgriculture (NASDA) sent letters to Congress warning such a relocation ofAPHIS "could actually have the unintended consequence of diminishingour biosecurity efforts."

On behalf of NASDA, three agriculture commissioners, including Meg ScottPhipps of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, testified in a U.S.House agriculture committee hearing in late June.

"Phipps' recommendation was to have the committee consider establishinga liaison office so that in the event of an introduction of animal or plantdisease, there would be close coordination with experts of APHIS at USDAand the terrorism defense experts at homeland security," says MikeBlanton, assistant commissioner, NCDA.

At presstime, the commissioners, along with the American Farm Bureau,National Pork Council and National Beef Cattlemen's Association, were tomeet with the U.S. Senate.

On another front, coining it as an "alternative" proposal,Dr. Alfonso Torres, director of the New York State Animal Health DiagnosticLaboratory at Cornell University and former deputy administrator of APHIS,veterinary services, suggests below how a couple of specific areas of APHISshould be modified to fit into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).(He adds his comments are his personal opinions and do not reflect the positionof Cornell University nor APHIS).

APHIS, Emergency Management Liaison with FEMA:

As proposed by APHIS in previous budget requests, Torres says there isa need to have emergency management veterinarians collected with FEMA tocoordinate assistance in disasters of any origin where animals are involved.

APHIS, National Veterinary Services Laboratories:

"All APHIS laboratories including those at the Centers for VeterinaryBiologics and at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories at Ames,Iowa, and at Plum Island, N.Y., should be kept under the current administrativearrangements within USDA," says Torres. He recommends that they receiveadditional funding from the new DHS programs to provide enhanced protectionto the health of our animals and for public health when zoonotic diseasesare involved.

Timothy D. Mandrell, DVM, dipl. ACLAM, professor, University of Tennessee,says the proposed transfer is "of great concern" to the laboratoryanimal community, as it's regulated by USDA-APHIS.

The board of directors of ASLAP was scheduled to meet at the AVMA nationalconvention at presstime to discuss this agenda.

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